• Little by Little

    October 13, 2014.  Kelly Conheeney posts her thoughts from our last program in Indonesia in rural Papua.  I am sleeping in a house right now in the middle of Maybrat, a remote jungle land overpopulated with stray dogs and banana trees. There is one road between here and the city of Sorong and we occupied all 240 km of it on our 4-hour drive in. I am convinced my life in Maybrat is the closest I will ever feel to being a celebrity. Kids scream “Bule” (“white person”) when we drive by and giggle when we say hi to them. After every practice session we exit the field in the bed of a pick up truck waving goodbye to the children that sat and watched our 3-hour practice session.

    I feel as though I’ve travelled back in time. Electricity turns on every night at 7 pm and shuts down at 4 am when the roosters and howling dogs start their early morning chatter. Cell phone service can be found at the top of the mountain if you have the patience and time to stand with your hand in the air and wait for a bar to show up on your phone.  What seemed at first like difficult living standards became quite comforting after long days on the field.

    Everyday is a new challenge. Both on field and off field In Maybrat I was taken out of my comfort zone.  Brian had me plan each session and run each game on my own all week which was new to me. A week that was extremely impactful and eye opening in my life and educational, at the least, for the coaches that attended.

    Papua has the highest rate of HIV of anywhere in Indonesia hence the reason we spent two full days focusing on the issue. Some people in Maybrat expressed the belief that HIV is brought into town by people who travel to and from the city of Sorong. It’s a valid thought but it seemed a lack of knowledge over the issue was the dominant reason many of the coaches placed all the blame on that one theory.

    On the 3rd day of training we played Adebayor HIV games with the coaches. Among these games we talk about the facts concerning the spread of HIV as well as the ways it is contracted, and the social stigma attached to the virus. When asked how HIV is contracted; an answer that may seem obvious to some, were not so obvious to the eleven 30+ year-old coaches staring back at me. Some of the answers we heard was why HIV education was a mandatory focus for the next two days for us; Answers that were all false and based more on myths than actual fact.

    It was a memorable moment for me when a little boy who was watching from the sideline jumped into our session, because the game calls for larger teams and our numbers were small. At first he was reluctant to join in on the conversation until he felt a brave voice inside of him tell him to use his words. His little voice very softly muttered under his breath. The coaches laughed and I wasn’t able to hear what he said until Jason translated his answer to me. He was right! The little 10 year old had said the answer I had been waiting for as to another reason how HIV can spread, “through your mom”. The other answers, including “Mosquitos, eating different types of food, sharing the same cup of water as someone else” are not ways one can contract HIV/AIDS. But rather through unsafe sex, sharing needles, and through childbirth/breastfeeding.

    I think the moment may have opened the coaches eyes more than it did mine.

    A 10 year-old knowing about HIV/AIDS isn’t uncommon to see around the world, but HIV education isn’t enforced until later in their lives. Some unfortunately never learn the facts. But it may have been a slight moment where the coaches realized the importance of sending the correct information to the kids so they are able to make educated decisions with their lives.

    The way I see it, Maybrat is an area of the world that needs time to grow. Little by little they will progress, and it will take time. It will take a foundation built upon strong leaders and a system like the hat-trick initiative for existing coaches to have a structure for their lives and be able to impact the lives of the future generation as well.

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  • Working with the Army in Papua

    29th September 2014. General Eduard greets us at the field at the Kodam XVII jayapura army base overlooking the serene landscape of Cenderiwasih Bay. Down below the stadium seats, a training drill field holds army men, civilian coaches, a marching band and 2 local football youth teams that are suited up and ready to play a short game of futbol following the ceremony. We are treated to cake and pastries, a common Papuan snack during and after training sessions, and we are accompanied by several army chiefs. After joining the men on the field for the opening ceremony, Cenderawasih, a club team coached by some of the coaches we will be working with, played against another local club team.

    This year was CAC’s first time holding a clinic at the Jayapura army base. Thirty nine participants attended; a mix of army and civilians. I was curious to see how they would respond to the self-directed learning approach to coaching as it is a different way of learning than they are accustomed to in their structured lives. The coaches adapted well and were quick to take in information and respond. Although the clinic only ran for 3 days, we were impressed to see their willingness to run the morning school sessions on their own by the third day. I am confident that the coaches have learned enough of the curriculum to start implementing change where they see fit in their communities.

    An area of focus for us in Papua has been smoking and the high rates of HIV/AIDS. Chain smoking in Papua is very common, especially in the military. The smell of burning plastic and cigarette smoke is almost impossible to escape here. One thing I have particularly noticed while traveling through Indonesia is how uninformed people are when it comes to their health. One man told me he smokes to concentrate better, another told me he smokes so he doesn’t fall asleep when driving. Although uninformed about the actual effects of smoking, it is still clear on every cigarette package that smoking kills. Our discussions about smoking always seem to end with Brian and I encouraging them to be good role models by never smoking in front of their players. The message seemed to reach them as many applauded at the end of several discussions. The Adebayor against HIV/AIDS games raised many questions as well. Many of the coaches were parents as well as coaches, which explained why there were a lot of concerns. Our Adebayor games were created to demonstrate how healthy educated decisions can stop the spread of HIV. After a question and answer filled Adebayor session, I am confident that the majority of these coaches will use our Adebayor and health and wellness games with their teams. Since talking about HIV is stigmatized, playing these games are a great way to start the discussion and create a safe space to talk about it.

    The Conflict Resolution games seemed to have a great impact on this group as well. Mingle Mingle and Marta for Conflict Resolution are both energy filled games that they all loved. Both games require quick thinking and problem solving, with incentive not to lose. Marta for Conflict Resolution is a game where 6 teams line up facing each other in a circle. Each player on the team has a different number from 1-6. When your number is called, you run around the front cone, continue around your team and around the circle until you reach your starting position. There are several variations where you can add a ball, call out two numbers at the same time, and give instruction to pick up the ball at the same time. A lot of cheating arises in the game which calls for teachable moments. Coaches learn the significance of teaching their players the difference between cheating and making a mistake and they also learn that in order to solve problems in life, we must communicate and work together.

    It was great to see collaboration between the army, Uni Papua and the local communities. Huge steps can be taken before CAC comes back to Jayapura next year if the army coaches implement the 24 week curriculum into their practice plans and push their players to think independently and solve their own problems. The future of Jayapura looks promising as the coaches have already started to understand self-directed learning after three practice sessions with us and were determined to show us what they learned at the sessions at the schools every morning.

    As I continue to learn about the Papuan culture my appreciation for the people of this country grows. Uni Papua have been so generous and absolutely lovely to work with. Yanti and Kalin in Sentani treated us like family during our 10 short days working with them, and after sharing our last meal with Eduard’s family the night before our departure from Jayapura, we were taken to a karaoke bar. Brian and I sang “Ironic” by Alanis Morisette which was a highlight of my night; but a close second was the the dan-dout traditional Papuan dance performed by Eduard’s wife and daughter.

    Although we only had three days in Jayapura, our work on the field was extremely productive. We worked with a group of bright individuals who are great role models for Papua and I believe they will have a strong influence on Papuas future leaders.
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  • Female Role Models in Sentani

    September 11, 2014.  Sometimes change is hard to see.  We are working for the second year with Uni Papua in Sentani, near the city of Jayapura.  In the past year Uni Papua has grown to four communities surrounding this beautiful tropical lake.  These are communities who have a strong desire to use sport for social impact, who recognize the power of football for social change instead of trying to create top-level footballers.  These are also communities where it is common to take a boat to get to school and where the million plus inhabitant city of Jayapura seems decades away instead of just 50 short kilometers.  It is hard to believe that this vast country of Indonesia can have so many different geographical differences, as well as differences within its population, each coming from distinct tribes and unique islands.

    While it might be easy to focus on some of the social issues that exist in Papua including high HIV rates and tribal conflict, that means you may be missing some of the other positive changes that have occurred since CAC was here last year.

    The most impactful game of the week was Marta for Gender Equity, a scrimmage game with a strong message that has certain coaches sitting out for extended stretches of time.  These substitutes learn what it feels like to be forcibly left-out, simulating the feelings of young girls who are not permitted or encouraged to play.  By the end of the game, the coaches who were not permitted to play were visibly affected, and this lesson can help change their perspective on the right for everyone to play sport, regardless of gender or ability.

    On our final day of coaching, Touska Iba came up to us and said how proud she was that more women attended our trainings this year.   Last year, she was the only female coach (out of 26) and this year there were eight women coaches (out of 54).  Although far from a 50/50 split, it a real progress, from 3.8% up to 14.8%.  This progress demonstratively shows young boys and girls that equality should exist and that equitability is getting better.  We need more positive male and female role models to continue to make real efforts to ensure that gender equity is more than just a statement, and that it becomes a reality.  Hopefully within their lifetime, with the efforts of people like Touska, it will not be strange to see even numbers of boys and girls playing for coaches of either gender.

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  • Back in Beautiful Biak

    September 6, 2014.  Off the northern coast of Papua lies Biak Island, one of Indonesia’s 17,000+ islands that make up the worlds largest Archipelago. This remote island exists today as it’s own natural paradise, untouched by traveling tourists and nearly free of western influence.  But the simplicity of the island is what makes it so unique; Papuans grow and catch their own food and rely on traditions and their own ideas to develop. The remoteness of the land and seclusion from outside sources makes it difficult for Biak to advance in many ways. One of the main problems Biak faces today is the high rate of HIV/AIDS. The regions of Papua and West Papua have two of the highest HIV prevelency rates in Indonesia and the reality is that if traditions stay the same and education about how to protect against HIV/AIDS is never implemented then these numbers will continue to grow.

    Social issues on the island, such as this one are why people like Harry are so important to the future of Biak. Harry founded Uni Papua, a sport for social development NGO, and has been working on Biak island for two years. He has high hopes for the future of Biak and Papua and is adamant about Uni Papua’s partnership with CAC, using football as a tool for social change. Last year Uni Papua existed in one location on Biak, but this year they have coaches in three different communities on the island.

    When Brian and I arrived on Saturday we spoke at Biak’s radio station which aired internationally throughout all of Indonesia and the neighboring country of Papua New Guinea. The People of Biak are very appreciative of our time and efforts in their communities. Over the course of the week the coaches learned football games to teach young kids about gender equity, conflict resolution, health and wellness, and and entire day was spent on HIV/AIDS. Our goal is to develop problem solvers, creative thinkers and  educated leaders who don’t need to rely on others to make decisions or solve their problems for them. Once the coaches can fully grasp the self-directed learning model of coaching, they are sure to make a difference in the lives of children in their communities. A couple of the coaches that participated in the first year program stood out among the rest which gives us some knowledge of how CAC has had an impact in Biak.

    The problem solving games were the most impactful over the 5-day coaching camp as the coaches found ways to strategize and problem solve on their own. After playing a game called Old Trafford tag, where players link together when tagged; they used an analogy about how their chain represented a fishing net to catch all the remaining players. It was neat to see them relate a real-world application to solve their problem.

    Personally it was another week full of surprises and sensory overload in the world of CAC. I think the only time I stopped grinning was when I found worms living in the basin of water I used to shower with everyday. From the tree house nestled deep in the jungle that I dreamt of living in as a kid, to laughing with the children we met at schools across the island every morning, I have fallen in love with the Papuan people and the beautifully exotic paradise island I called my home for seven days.

    Writing never does enough to encapsulate all that I experience with CAC, but with every village I enter, every school I visit, and every coach I work beside I am able to see the power football can have on a community. And even more so I am able to see the value of social impact through sport that CAC offers around the world.

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  • Impacting a Tropical Paradise

    IMG_7255October 8, 2013.  Picture a tropical island that tourists forgot about.  The blue clear water laps the shore, where palm trees provide shade.  The sandy soil quickly turns into lush green forests that creep onto the   narrow roadways.  Biak island is part paradise, but also a developing community in the eastern reaches of Indonesia.  There is a strong European and American influence from past missionaries and General MacArthur who fought and liberated this island from the Japanese in WWII.  But for various reasons the direct international flights to Biak stopped over ten years ago, tourists stopped coming, and the lone five-star resort in all of Papua also deteriorated back into the jungle.

    IMG_7640Coaches Across Continents is here because of Uni Papua Biak, the local branch of EMSYK Uni Papua who we worked with last week in Jayapura.  Although a small island with just 140,000 people, we had 45 coaches attend every training sessions.  Together they mentor over 2,500 youth on the island.  Having an international group like Coaches Across Continents come to Biak was important to the people here, who are sometimes overlooked by outside groups and even their own government.  We were welcomed warmly, and even citizens of Biak city were happy to see us as we wandered around.  After our week concluded we were told we were the first international coaches to visit Biak, ever.

    IMG_7651Soccer is important here, with the local team Persipura winning the Indonesian league last year.  The youth coaches are keen to pick up whatever knowledge they can, and very quickly saw the power of football to teach other life lessons.  This was helped by our translator Wesly and other members of the Uni Papua team who understand the social impact of this fun game.  Although the scenery is idyllic, problems exist here in Biak.  HIV rates are high, there is a lack of economic development and markets for goods from Biak, and other issues.  Uni Papua Biak realizes this, and knows of the work CAC has done to help local communities around the world tackle their own problems.

    After training for one week with our coaches, we are already excited to see what progress they can make in the next twelve months before we return.  Armed with a curriculum that teaches social impact as well as football, we know that this group of coaches can effect a large segment of the youth on this small island.  The tourists might be temporarily gone, but Uni Papua and CAC are here together with our Hat Trick Initiative.

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  • CAC Takes Papua by Sweat

    October 5, 2013. Coaches Across Continents takes you to the far northeast corner of Papua, Indonesia to the city of Jayapura. Coaches Brian Suskiewicz and Nora Dooley are learning just how big a country Indonesia is, as they land in a region vastly different from the fast-paced, traffic center that was Jakarta. This program marks the first year working with EMSYK Uni Papua, a football club making their presence known throughout the province. Both sides are excited about the future of this promising partnership, as the first week of two (one in Jayapura, one on Biak Island) started us off strong.

    IMG_6970A city teeming with roadside venders selling Beetlenuts, bananas, and local staples like the infamous Martabak, a butter-soaked pancake made savory or sweet with add-ins like chocolate, milk, or cheese, Jayapura sets a rich tone. Previously made well aware of the region’s love for football, Brian and Nora were excited to see it manifest among the coaches and young players at EMSYK.

    IMG_7065After navigating the slender streets and the motorbikes that own the roads, the CAC team along with the wonderfully helpful EMSYK staff, arrived at a pitch wrought from some sacred football legend. A thick grass field enclosed by tall tropical trees, watched over by rolling hills and mountains as if to protect it from taint, welcomed us to the world of football in Papua. The warm tropical air means that you are constantly sweating – but you could not dream up a better place to call the office.

    The week of training saw small numbers for coaches compared to other programs, but they were a good group, eager to learn from our CAC staff. A few hundred Marta and Ronaldo skills later and the week was a great start to our work in Papua. Along with training coaches from eight different clubs in the region, Brian and Nora visited four different schools in the community where they played CAC games, sweat so much it looked like it rained, and had a blast with junior high and high school kids from Jayapura.  CAC can only expect more of the great hospitality, warm welcomes, and passion for football on Biak Island as we continue to build our partnership with EMSYK Uni Papua.

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